Hey Toby: – I was reading your article about the Mercedes vehicles that were repaired at a non-certified repair facility [See Hey Toby! at www.autobodynews.com]. My question to you; is there any system in the market that will hold and measure without buying another frame machine? I have been told that some insurance companies do not pay for jig rentals. Is that also true?
— Mike from the Bay Area
Hey Mike – I recently wrote an article about improper repairs done on two Mercedes Benz vehicles. MB recommend that structural repairs be performed on a Celette or Car Bench (Car-O-Liner has MB certification Global, but not North America at this time). You could invest in a Celette Bench for other vehicles, but that might not meet your other needs (Honda, Volvo & Ford). To your second question, I have heard that some carriers will not reimburse the repair facility for jig rentals.
In a recent article I discussed the lean process and how we can eliminate waste. I recently taught I-CAR’s Cycle time class in Downey and San Jose. Greg Gunter, owner of Greg’s Autobody in Whittier, CA, asked me for help in starting the lean process in his shop. I spent about 4 hours with his staff prior to the 4th of July holiday discussing the lean process and what we were going to accomplish, but before we got started, we did a walk-through of the shop as a group and identified all of the items of waste.
To read this column in multipage PDF format with photos click here
We filled up 2 complete pages of corrections that needed to be made. In one week, Greg and his staff finished page one and as they were starting on page 2, I stopped by the shop on July the 12th to check on progress. What a difference a couple of weeks can make!
I want to share the transformation of the shop, but I will wait until they are finished (That will be in the September Hey Toby! Column). For now, let’s talk about the two shops in Santa Cruz (Carmat Collision Center) and Santa Clara (Anchor Autobody).
Both shop owners held the CYC 01 classes at their shops the week of July 6 and everyone from each facility was in attendance. Anchor Autobody is an extremely clean facility and void of most clutter.
Carmat Collision Center has been remodeling the facility with new spray booths, new Car-O-Liners frame and measuring equipment plus new STR Welders. Matt, who co-owns Carmat with his wife Shawn, asked me to come back the next day and work with their staff on how to tear down a vehicle using the lean process. Remember, we want to eliminate waste and the biggest waste producer in a body shop is a poorly written estimate---which means multiple supplements.
Let’s look at this Honda Accord that arrived at the shop the day before the class.
The damage to outside of the vehicle was as follows: Hood (replacement), Front bumper and License plate-bracket (replacement), left fender (replacement), driver’s side air-bag (replacement), grille (replacement), frame set-up and pull, and all refinish operations. This was written prior to tear down.
The shop would previously have ordered the visual parts and performed a tear down in the tech’s stall when the car was assigned to production. Matt stated that the shop would have a least 2 supplements with this method. The lean method calls for moving the car to the designated tear down stall (Carmat now has a portable lift in the tear down stall).
Here is the order that we set up as an SOP (standard operating procedure). The passenger’s side of the windshield was marked as follows: Repair order number, Customer’s name, Insurance Company, Date In, Target Date, Estimator’s name, Technicians Name, and all Sublet items (in this case, Alignment and Air-bag Replacement). A seat saver and floor mat were also installed to protect the interior.
All photos were taken and the windshield was noted with a written letter “P” in a circle. I explained to everyone that a SOP for a photo was needed. It is far easier to take every possible photo and use the ones specified for the different direct repair programs than trying to memorize what each insurance carrier wants. By taking all the pictures now, you save a lot of time down the line when an inside adjuster needs a special picture.
For example, they may need a picture of the engine for valuation purposes. It is a lot easier to retrieve it from the file than getting up and taking another picture. Remember, we want to eliminate waste as part of going lean.
While the technicians were getting their tools ready, I had the estimators look at the air-bag deployment. The estimator stated that they would only order the air bag and check with the air bag replacement service on any additional items needed (another supplement). I demonstrated how to check the seat belts after deployment. Everyone noted that the seat belt tensioner on the driver’s side (the seat belt would not lock in place) had deployed, but the passenger’s side was still functioning properly.
I showed everyone where they could find what parts were mandatory replacements when a frontal air bag deployed. In this instance, Honda wants the controller replaced along with the seat belt and air bag. We now included both items to our estimate (and no supplement).
An empty parts cart was marked with the customer’s name and repair order number.
A couple of things you need to note:
First, look at the racks in the upper portion of the picture. The day before, I asked Matt what was in the red storage boxes. His reply was: “I don’t know.”
It turns out that there were parts from vehicles where the repairs have already been completed and delivered. I told him: “In the future, the only things that should be stored on those shelves should be covered seats. Everything else will go on the parts carts.”
Second, the clear area behind the car had been filled with clutter. It was all removed and set up as staging area for the parts carts.
The first area that we decided to work on was the front bumper assembly.
With the bumper removed, all parts were inspected, tagged with an RO number (we used a price labeling gun to mark the RO #).
All clips and screws were placed into plastic bags and marked with an item description. We noted on the estimate that four bumper retainer clips and 2 lower clips were missing and/or broken. All clips were noted on the estimate. The front bumper was taken completely apart for inspection. We noted that the front bumper absorber was also cracked and needed to be replaced.
The next items that need to be removed were both headlamps. What we found was very interesting. Both headlamps, on first look, showed no damage, but when we inspected the left headlamp, we found a large crack along both retainers. Matt added a line to our SOPs to check the headlamps (turn them on) prior to removal to note inoperative bulbs. (You don’t want supplement for bulbs.)
We also noted that the front bumper reinforcement was damaged and need to be replaced. The group decided not remove it at this time because it would be used for pulling the mash condition---more on this later.
We discovered that the air cleaner baffle was broken and that was added to the estimate.
Note that the estimator placed a “Replace” tag on the part. All parts that were tagged with the “Replace” sticker were placed on a separate shelf on the parts cart. The core support had considerable damage where it was attached to the front rail and a consensus decision was made to replace it. This decision meant that the A/C system had to be evacuated prior to removal and this was done at the time of writing the estimate. A couple of notes, the system was down ½ lbs and that amount was added to the estimate along with 3 new “O” rings and capping off the A/C lines.
We noted that the vehicle had sustained some frame damage. The door gap on the driver’s side was narrow at the top and wider at the bottom. Furthermore, the front rail was pushed back. We added a line on the estimate to correct the mash condition (shortness of length) and a line for a sag condition (change in height). Since the car was going to be placed on a frame beach (this shop uses a Car-O-Liner), the rocker molding needed to removed and the pinch welds needed to have self-etch primer applied, along with painting. Furthermore, the vehicle will need to have a 4-wheel alignment performed and these additional line items were added to the estimate.
The next step was to de-trim the driver’s side door. It was decided by consensus that we would R&I the door molding and we added a line for cleaning and re-taping the molding. We also wrapped the door trim panel and outside mirror in plastic for protection.
After the lower molding was removed, it was decided that the molding could not be re-taped and we would change the estimate to reflect that decision. We added a line to remove the adhesive from the door that we were going to blend.
The hood lock was removed and we found more hidden damage. The lock was bent and needed to be replaced.
We removed and labeled the horns, fender liners, washer bottle (make sure you add a line for fluid), and lower engine shroud. All these items plus others were added to the estimate at this time. The wire loom was removed from the core support and time for the operation (another non-included item) was added to the estimate.
The hood insulator was removed along with the rubber seals. It should be noted that 4 of the hood insulators push clips broke during the removal process and they were also added to the estimate. Also every clip broke on the 3 front rubber seals. Again, these parts were added to the estimate.
During the removal process, everyone (team effort) discussed the repairs and any additional steps needed for the repairs were also indicated, and they (repair items) would also be added to the estimate now instead of later.
One of the technicians said that the car had a sway condition (a change in width) and I asked how he knew that. He stated that he could tell from experience and I replied that was not good enough. We brought over a tram gauge (it took us 10 minutes to find) and, sure enough, there was a sway condition. We now had the justification to add another line to the estimate for the correction of the sway condition.
When I was finished with the tram gauge, I had one of the techs attach it to the staircase so that everyone knew where it belonged and it would at a very accessible location for future use in the tear down area.
Note that the parts cart has been filled and everything categorized. Also note that we did not remove the fender due to the fact that the rocker moldings would have to be removed because the lift would not allow us access to the screws on the bottom of the moldings.
I taught the Cycle time reduction class again in Phoenix, AZ, at Carstar Good Wrench Autobody. Keith Brening, the Collision Center Manager, asked me if I could facilitate a complete tear down demonstration with everyone from his staff in attendance (26 people in all) and I was more than happy to accommodate him.
The next day we went through the same orderly process of a complete tear down and I explained the reasons for each step. My first question to the group was what is the color of the vehicle and everyone, except the painter (I had asked him to verify the color), said it was “black.” It turns out that the color was a black pearl, which meant that additional paint steps would be needed and added to the estimate.
I selected two techs and had them place in separate plastic bags, the screws and clips for the grille (4 screws), the bumper, the headlamps and the upper core support cover. Both techs thought that it was a waste of time and materials to bag and label all the screws and clips. I asked them how they handle all the small parts and their reply was to put them all together in one plastic bag. Keith purchased 50 plastic bags at a cost of @$2.50 or 5 cents per bag. We used 20 bags at a cost of one dollar. I proceeded to ask them how long it would take them to sort out clips and 15 minutes for that particular operation was a consensus time allotted by the group. I asked everyone what was a better idea: spend one dollar on the bags or waste 15 minutes of production time sorting out the screws, clips and bolts. Everyone agreed that $1.00 for the bags was a better solution. Moreover, when the vehicle was to be assembled, it would not be difficult to figure out what went where (everything was marked).
One final note, while we were wrapping the door trim panel in plastic, a young man from the group picked up some bubble wrap and wrapped the door mirror. I asked him why he did that and he replied that it was the right thing to do. The young man was the detailer in the shop and attended the class the night before. He really understood the meaning of teamwork. Everyone that has taken I-CAR’s Cycle Time Class with me has asked how to get started with the concept.
Here is what is needed in equipment:
* Floor Jack and Jack stands (a tire hoist is the best solution)
* A service cart with all the necessary tools for R&I
* Floor mats and seat savers
* Tram Gauge
* Parts cart
* Plastic bags and covers
* Masking Tape
* Marking pen
* Computer terminal and desk
* Access to A/C recovery unit
* Digital Camera
I will put together a number of SOP’s for my next article to help you lean production process. Try to attend I-CAR’s Cycle Time Class. It will open a whole new world for you.
Toby Chess, well-known I-CAR instructor and consultant, was the featured speaker at the California Autobody Association’s (CAA) East Bay chapter meeting, held at Scott’s Seafood restaurant in Walnut Creek, CA, on May 19th.
More than 50 shop owners, managers and technicians attended the event to network and listen to Chess as he discussed how to capture more money on each repair; something shops are extremely interested in, especially during these tough economic times.
Chess told the shops in attendance how they can make 2% more in gross profit by charging for things many shops don’t want to, or forget to include, in their estimates —such as basic shop supplies, clips, and labor hours they leave off the invoice.
“These little things can add up and impact your bottom line considerably,” Chess said. “Many shops use materials in the repair process and don’t charge for them. They’re essentially giving these items away, and I am telling them they don’t have to.”
CAA East Bay chapter President Lisa Daves from Spectrum Body & Paint in San Leandro thought the shops represented at the meeting were able to glean some valuable information from Chess’s presentation.
“Toby was fantastic,” Daves said. “He really opened some eyes among our members with his speech and the numbers he presented. He’s also a very dynamic and charismatic speaker, which always helps. We’re always trying to get valuable advice from our presenters at these meetings, and Toby fit the bill.”
CAA First Vice-President Gigi Walker, owner of Walker’s Auto Body in Concord, CA, paid tribute to Pat Packer, a Color Supply paint rep who died suddenly at age 42. A memorial for Packer sponsored by the CAA East Bay chapter raised over $800 to help defray his family’s expenses.
Daves also announced the time and place for the chapter’s annual Truck Competition/Toys for Tots fundraiser, an event that has grown in popularity every year, she said.
This year’s competition will be on Nov. 17th, at the Blackhawk Auto Museum in Blackhawk, Calif. Every holiday season, shops from all over the East Bay design and outfit model trucks, battling other collision repair facilities for the right to say they’re the best model truck builders in the region. Attendees can then bid on the model trucks.
For more information on how to get involved in the CAA East Bay chapter, contact Lisa Daves at (510) 357-3883.
—Thanks, Old Time Shop Owner, Los Angeles
Old Timer—Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? I would highly recommend that you go to I-CAR’s Cycle Time Class. It will not show you the step-by-step methods to improve your cycle time, but it will stimulate the thought process for improving your shop’s methods. One of the concepts that is highlighted in the CYC 01 class are the 5 S’s. The 5 S’s seem like a simple and easy system to adopt. The 5 S’s are as follows:
► SORT—Select what is needed for completing a particular task and remove everything else from the work area.
► SET IN ORDER—Aarrange the necessary items in order so that they can quickly be accessed and put away.
► SHINE—This step follows the first 2 completed steps. A clean working environment makes work easier and raises morale. It also makes it easier to spot defects in the system.
► STANDARDIZE—Everyone in the facility needs to help produce the same desired results every time. This is where the SOP’s are utilized.
► SUSTAIN—This step keeps steps one through four in place, but this step is the hardest to keep going. Why? Because people build habits (good or bad) and they are hard to change. Find ways to reward these changes during the first 6 months of implementation and you will see a reduction in your cycle time.
One more item that is needed to begin the process is the involvement of all employees. You need to get everyone involved to accomplish this task. You must learn about motivating today’s employees.
What is motivation?
Motivation is a desire to achieve a goal, combined with the energy to work towards that goal. Once ones core needs are attained, motivation turns to a higher level of needs (such as a sense of achievement).
One thing that you need to remember is that you cannot motivate others, you can only motivate yourself. For example, if you are motivated to implement the 5 S’s, how would you motivate your employees to change their old ways of work to these new and different methods?
The use of fear, coercion and the threat of punishment could be employed. In other words, “my way or the highway”, but this style of management does not get the best results. The new type of management style is that of a coach. Last football season, I watched the new UCLA coach (Rick Neuheisel) routinely go off on his players when they made mistakes. Did it achieve the desired results? No! On the other hand, Pete Carroll of USC is always the cheerleader even if a player makes a mistake.
Question—Why does USC football continue to attract top-notch players? I think the major reason is Pete Carroll and his style of positive motivation. You can create an environment that will motivate your employees in the same manner as Pete Carroll does. Be a cheerleader. Be positive. Reward and recognize those who achieve their goals. Although the concept of rewarding desired performances is common sense, it is far from common practice in today’s body shops.
Bob Nelson wrote, “Everyone likes to be recognized and appreciated. How many managers, however, consider appreciating others to be a major function of their job today? It should be. At a time in which employees are being asked to do more than ever before, to make suggestions for continuous improvement, to handle complex problems quickly, and to act independently in the best interests of the company, the resources and support for helping is at an all-time low. Budgets are tight; salaries are frozen. Layoffs are rampant; promotional opportunities are on the decline.” Is this what is happening today? This quote was taken from a book published in 1996.
Quoting from Bob Nelson again: “In today’s business environment, what used to be common courtesies have been overcome by speed and technology. Managers tend to be too busy and too removed from their employees to notice when they’ve done exceptional work and to thank them for it. Technology has replaced personal interaction with constant interfacing with a computer terminal.” April 19–25 was National Volunteer Week. I-CAR sent out a blanket e-mail thanking its volunteers. Wouldn’t it have been a better gesture on their part to send out a hand-written thank you note? John Naisbitt stated in his book Megatrends that as we become more highly technical, the needs for employees become more human and personal. If we are going to sustain the 5S’s, we’re going to have to do a better job of motivating our employees.
Food for thought:
● What motivates people the most takes relatively little effort to do.
● Recognition of employees serves to decrease cost and increase revenues.
● Employees will treat customers in the same manner that they are treated by employers/managers.
Take a test
Rank by numbers what you as managers/ owners think is the order of priorities of your employees:
Good Wages ____
Job Security ____
Good Working Conditions ____
Interesting Work ____
Personal Loyalty To Workers ____
Tactful Disciplining ____
Full Appreciation For Work Done ____
Sympathetic To Personal Problems ____
Feeling “In” On Things ____
The order by ranking for managers and employers was Good Wages #1 followed by Job Security and straight down the list with Feeling “in” on things as number 10.
The same process of ranking was done by employees and the ranking was as follows 1—Full appreciation. 2—Feeling “in”, 3—Sympathetic to Personal Problems, 4—Job Security, 5—Good Wages, 6—Interesting Work, 7—Promotion, 8—Personal Loyalty, 9—Good Working Conditions, & 10—Tactful Disciplining.
Money, however, is not a motivator. “There is little correlation between pay and performance,” John Tschoh, founder and president of the Service Quality Institute, says. “Recognition is much more effective. People have an incredible need for recognition.
Understanding how your employees feel, will help you achieve a success with Sustain. If you embark on lean production, you will need buy it from everyone. They need to be involved in all aspects of the business. They need to help create the SOPs. They need to be motivated to succeed. In closing, this was not an article on how to do it, but an article on how to change your thought process.
Hey Toby—I thought that all high voltage wires on hybrids are orange, but an adjuster told me that there are other colors. Are there more that one color for high voltage wires?
—Dan from Fresno
Hey Dan—Thanks again for hosting the I-CAR classes at your shop. As to your question, yes, there are several color wires for high voltage. You can have blue wires (Some GM products) that carry 36 volts, Yellow (Toyota and Lexus) that carry up to 48 volts and orange for over 100 volts.
Dan, I would recommend that you and your staff take the ALT 02 from I-CAR. Give me a call and I will set it up.
Hey Toby—I liked your info on air conditioning. Got any more helpful hints?
—Bob from the Valley of the Sun, AZ
Hey Bob—Move to some place cool during the summer. Just Kidding! I put together a series of scenarios using the manifold gauges and center vent temperature. Here are a couple that may help you.
Low Side (blue) is low, High side (red) is low and center temperature is warm—Most likely the system is low on freon. Also check for restriction in the high portion of the system,
Low side is high, High side is High and center vent temperature is warm. One more check reveals that the high pressure hoses are extremely hot. Most likely the condenser is not working properly. Another problem could be an overcharge of refrigerant.
Low side is normal, high side is normal, and center vent is warm. Air and /or moisture is in the system.
Low side is low and High side is High and center vent temperature is slightly cool. Upon further inspection the expansion valve is found to be frosted or sweating. The expansion valve is most likely stuck open
Low side reads high and high side reads low and temperature at the center vent is warm. The culprit is in the compressor system. If the compressor is no noisy there may be a worn or loose compressor drive belt.
Hey Toby—I recently received an A/M radiator and it was missing the foam on the top and bottom (See photos).
Question—What is the foam used for? —Sam from Los Angeles
Hey Sam—The foam is used to seal off the condenser. The hood will sit on the foam and direct the air so that it goes thru the condenser and not over the top. You need to transfer the foam and it is not included item on the estimate.
Hey Toby—Do you need any special tools to bleed a radiator on a Toyota Prius?
—Jill in Sacramento, CA
Hey Jill—You will need a scan tool to open the coolant control valve, which begins the bleeding procedure. Any air trapped in the system can ruin the inverter/converter unit and that could be very costly. You will also need to use straight coolant from Toyota (do not mix with water). I-CAR has a great video clip on this procedure in their ALT 02 class.
Hey Toby—Our shop had a Toyota Prius towed into in with front end damage. There is a tank mounted to the left rail (see picture). It is slightly damaged. I have 2 questions. First, what is it used for, and second, does it need to be replaced?
—Henry from San Diego
Hey Henry—Great questions and thanks for the picture. It is a storage tank for the coolant. It is designed to keep the engine coolant warm for up to 3 days. The engine will run more efficiently when it is warm. It will also produce less emissions when it is warm. To your second question, Toyota states that any damage to the unit, including broken brackets will require replacement. For a more detailed discussion, again I would recommend that you and your staff take I-CAR’s ALT 02 .
With summer only a few months away, I’ve been receiving a number of questions dealing with automobile air conditioning. It’s a good time to answer them. To read this article in PDF format with photos, click here .
Hey Toby—My repair center recently repaired a vehicle that was involved in a front end collision. The vehicle was not running and towed in. After the repairs were completed, I took the car for a test drive and turned on the air conditioning system to check it out. I was blasted by a foul smell coming from the air conditioning vent. Did we do something wrong?
—Jose from Scottsdale.
Hey Jose—I really doubt that your shop did anything wrong. If it smells like a mildew odor, it was probably present prior to the accident. What happens is the evaporator drain gets clogged and water accumulates in the evaporator.
The evaporator has 2 functions, first it removes the heat from the inside of the vehicle and second, it acts as a dehumidifier. As the warm air travels over the fins of the evaporator, water condenses on the fins and drains to the outside of the vehicle.
If the drain gets clogged, moisture will accumulate and it becomes a breeding ground for algae-like mold and bacterial organisms. As the microorganisms grow, they give off the foul odor. You can check to see if the drain is open, but that can be a bit of a challenge. A simple and cheap solution would be to use Lysol. Place the HVAC into recirculation mode and turn of the A/C system. Next, turn on the fan to medium and spray the Lysol under the dash behind the glove box. The fan motor will pick up the Lysol and transfer it through the system and, hopefully, kill the spores, mold, or algae.
A word of caution, Lysol can discolor the dash, so make a test on an area that can’t be seen and look for any discoloration. There are also commercial products that work like Lysol. There are also some products that coat the fins of the cooler and prevent the spores from growing. Good luck!
Hey Toby—I was told that if an A/C system has been open for more than a few hours, you must replace the receiver/drier. Is that true?
—Rick from Norwalk
Hey Rick—Before I answer your question, let’s talk about the functions of the receiver-drier. The receiver-drier has three functions in the a/c system.
First, it acts as a storage tank for excess Freon.
Second, it has filter to remove small amounts of garbage from the A/C system.
Third and foremost, it removes moisture from the system.
Moisture can cause a number of problems to the A/C system. It can attack the lines and corrode them. As with all liquids, water does not compress and it takes up space in the system. The compressor has 2 sides, the intake and discharge. The intake draws in Freon from the evaporator which is compressed and discharged to the condenser where the interior heat is absorbed from the inside of the vehicle and is dissipated.
Water in the system will not allow the Freon to compress to its fullest and therefore not all of the heat will be released.
In other words, it does not cool very efficiently. Water in the line can also find it way to the steel bearings in the compressor and cause them to corrode. Ever heard a bad bearing?
So, to answer your question, I would replace the receiver drier if the system has been open for a period of time. Here’s a diagnostic tool: If both the low and high side manifold gauges read normal, but the center vent duct is warm, this is a good indicator that there is water in the system.
Hey Toby—What would happen to an A/C system that has too much Freon added to it?
—Ingred from Redondo Beach
Hey Ingred—Too much Freon will cause the system to run warm. You can check this by hooking up the manifold gauges and checking the pressure. If both the low side and high side numbers are higher that they are suppose to be, this is a good indicator that there is too much Freon in the system. If both the manifold gauges have lower numbers than recommended and there is warm air at the center vent, this might indicate that the system is low on Freon. Hope this helps.
Hey Toby—How many different types of A/C condensers exist today?
—Rick from Norwalk
Hey Rick—There are four types of A/C condensers:
Here is a picture showing the difference between them (see PDF for all photos)
One note—you should always match the same type of condenser that came with the vehicle. I have seen where a tube and fin design was substituted for a parallel flow and cause all kinds of overheating problems in a Honda.
To Read HeyToby10-Firefighters as a pdf with photos: click here
In October of 2007 I was invited to participate with about 80 fire fighters for extrication training in Medford, Oregon. The 4-day class was developed and presented by Todd Hoffman of Scenes of the Accident.
The last day of training consisted of a series of extrication exercises on vehicles that were 20–30 years old. Nearly all of the fire fighters had no understanding of vehicle construction, which caused them to take longer to make their extrication cuts.
The following month at the CIC meeting during NACE week in Las Vegas, I was taking with Roger Cada of State Farm and telling him my experience at Medford. Roger introduced me to Bob Medved of State Farm and gave me the cell phone number for Ron Moore of McKinney Texas Fire. Ron is a Battalion Chief for the City of McKinney, TX, and a leading guru of extrication in the USA. I called Ron and told him my qualifications as an I-CAR instructor offered him my services at any of his training seminars. He invited me to San Diego in February, 2008 where I addressed about 60 fire fighters about ultra high strength steels and the challenges that they present to fire fighters. After 2 days with these gals and guys, I was hooked.
I started doing research of extrication and with the help of Ron and Todd, I put together a presentation for fire fighters that dealt with hydrid safety, air bag safety, vehicle construction and how all relate to a faster and safer extrication. I made a modified presentation at the I-CAR annual meeting last July in Scottsdale, Arizona. Bob Medved arranged for two cars to be delivered to the hotel and Ron introduced me to Captain John Dean of the Phoenix Fire Department. Six fire fighters demonstrated to the 250 CIC participants how they go about performing various vehicle entry procedures.
After the meeting I was contacted by Jordan Hendler, the executive director of the Washington Metropolitan Auto Body Association and she asked if I would put on a training seminar in Virginia and I said yes.
The second week in September of last year I conducted 4 nights of training in 4 different cities. State Farm donated late model vehicles, Kent Automotive supplied the food and 4 different body shops (Virginia Beach, Mechanicsville, Alexandria and Baltimore, MD) hosted the event. Two hundred and sixty first responders attended this free 3 hour seminar.
Three weeks later I was in Las Vegas to help Ron Moore teach another group of first responders. John Dean was also present (he is an instructor for Ron) and I told him of my experiences in Virginia and he asked me if I could do the same for Phoenix Valley fire departments. Of course I said yes.
While driving back from Las Vegas, I contacted Mike Quinn of 911 Collision and Dick Valentine of the Van Tuyl Automotive Group and asked them if they would like to host at their facilities a night of training. It took about 15 seconds for each man to say that it would be an honor to be a host. I also contacted Craig Oliveira, the western regional manager of Kent Automotive as asked him if he would sponsor the four nights of dinner and without hesitating said “yes”. The first night was on December 15, 2008 in Tucson. Pat O’Neal (Mike’s partner) emptied out the shop, set up tables and chairs and started barbequing tri tips.
70 first responders showed up for the evening and by 10PM they had cut up 2 cars.
Night 2 was at 911 Collision center in Scottsdale, AZ. Pat again did the cooking and Craig did the serving. Nationwide provided the vehicles for cutting and Hertz supplied a Toyota Prius for display.
Over 80 first responders attended the class.
Night 3 moved to the Van Tuyl Group’s Collision Center on Peoria. This was the largest number of fire fighters in attendance (112). Progressive supplied an ‘07 damaged Toyota Prius (for extrication training) and the dealership supplied 3 damaged cars for cutting. At 4:30 PM Jerry Pena, the center manager, was pacing the front lot like an expectant father. I asked him why he was so nervous and he said “where are the fire fighters?” I told him when you tell a fire fighter 5:00 PM, they will be there at 5:00 and don’t worry they will all come at once. At 4:45 the first fire truck arrived and within 10 minutes there were 11 trucks on the property.
I showed everyone how to shut down the power on the donated Prius prior to deploying all six air bags (2 frontal, 2 side and 2 seat, but not all at once. I might add that I used 2 “D” volt batteries in series) to deploy each air bag. It only took 3 volts for deployment. Think about this, your cell phone can deploy an air bag.
Here are a couple of pictures from night 3.
Night 4 we moved to Bell Honda Collision Center. I arrived at the shop early and one of the vehicles donated (Dodge Durango) did not lend itself for training. I convinced Jake Ritter, the center manager, to place another vehicle on top of the Durango (shop had a fork lift) and when everyone arrived it was the center of attention.
Again we deployed air bags on another donated Prius and everyone (over 90 fire fighters) was able to work on all the cars (we had 4 stations that night).
You can see by the picture that the first responders removed both “B” pillars and doors, “jacked” both sides of the dash and tunneled into the vehicle through the trunk.
Some final thoughts and comments:
Captain John Dean asked the audience at the CIC meeting in Scottsdale (January of this year) how many of the members of the audience drove 1980’s vehicles (a couple of hands rose), 1990’s (a few more) and after 2000 (nearly everyone else). He told the audience that most first responders are experts on cars built before the year 2000 and had very little experience training on later model vehicles. Most training vehicles are provided by local tow companies and have very little salvage value. It’s like trying to operate your shop using a 20-year-old computer.
There are over 1.1 million fire fighters in the US and 80 percent are volunteers.
They need up-to-date training, but with tight budgets it is not happening. They need our help. Shops in Reno, NV, Prescott, AZ, Denver, Co, Oakland, CA, Duarte, CA, Rohnert Park, CA, Beaverton, OR and Kona, HI to name a few, have offered to host a night of first responder training.
Think about this, we trained over 300 fire fighters in a week. Insurance companies like State Farm, Nationwide, AAA, and Progressive; Vendors like Kent Automotive, Hertz, Enterprise and LKQ Corp, I-CAR and body shops all came together for 4 hours for the good of our local communities. Nearly every fire fighter came up to me and shook my hand and said thank you.
Get involved. You will love the feeling.
Hey Toby – I am a technician in Los Angeles and I need some information on repairing an aluminum hood. Can you help me?— Miguel from Los Angeles
Hey Miguel – Thanks for the question and yes, I can help you. First, I would strongly recommend taking I-CAR’s aluminum repair class — STA 01. This is an excellent class on the proper steps in repairing aluminum. I see many shops replacing a damaged aluminum hood that should be repaired.
One problem is that most shops do not have the proper equipment and or the knowledge to affect an excellent repair. I recently conducted the STA 01 at Beverly Coachcraft in West Los Angeles. Dan Simkey arranged for me to conduct the class at his shop. Beverly Coachcraft is a Mercedes Certified Repair center and works on a large number of aluminum parts.
His senior tech Juan had extensive aluminum training from Mercedes-Benz and feels very comfortable repairing aluminum. When I arrived at the shop, Juan was getting ready to weld a small crack on an M-B CL hood. I asked him if he had cleaned the hood properly to which he replied “yes.”
I keep small little stainless steel brushes on my truck and, after retrieving one, I brushed over the area that he was going to weld and repair. To everyone’s surprise, it was still dirty. Bare aluminum when exposed to moisture and oxygen forms a chemical compound called aluminum oxide. This compound needs to be removed before welding because it changes the melting point of the aluminum.
Note the black specs on the metal after brushing. My technique is to finish cleaning the area with acetone before welding or using aluminum pulling pins. You can also clean the area with a DA sander with 80-grit paper, but using low speeds. Let’s get back to the class.
One of the requirements for repairing aluminum is that you use separate tools (one set for aluminum and another set for steel). The reason for the separate tools is the prevention of galvanic corrosion. When bare aluminum comes in contact with bare steel in the presence of an electrolyte, the aluminum will start to corrode.
If you use steel tools on aluminum, any steel from the repair process will imbed itself into the soft aluminum and galvanic corrosion will occur. I use the aluminum repair station from Dent Fix when it holds my classes.
The station has all the tools you will need to repair aluminum. Besides having the stud welder, the kit includes a vixen file, heat gun, hammers and dollies, and much, much more. To begin the process, the dent was sanded with P80 DA followed by a stainless steel brush and a final cleaning with acetone.
A heat gun was used on the dent with a circular motion starting on the outside side and then moving in a slow spiral motion to the center of the hood. Heat was monitored by using a non-contact thermometer. If the temperature exceeds 570 degrees Fahrenheit, the aluminum will go through a process called annealing. Annealing will cause the aluminum to be permanently softened.
The next step is clean the area again (your hand will leave a residue on the clean aluminum).
Next the proper stud (you will have to know what series aluminum you are working with — available at the OEM web sites) is installed to the area that is still low.
The stud is pulled until the dent is flush with the rest of the part
If any spots are high, they will need to be taped down to create a smooth surface.
A vixen file and/or a DA with 80-grit sand paper are used as the final step before a coat of epoxy primer is applied. The final step is to apply body filler to the repaired area. It should be noted that body filler that is used is compatible with aluminum.
Hey Toby—I vaguely remember you writing something about lean production and I keep reading in the trade magazines about, but I am really trying to understand it. After reading your article on advanced steels, do you think it would be possible to write a simplified version on lean production that I can understand and I don’t have to translate (I don’t understand Chinese). Thanks —Dave from North Hollywood.
Hi Dave—First and foremost, the words are not Chinese, they’re Japanese. Lean production was developed by Toyota in the early 50’s and it is part of the Toyota Production System. To get a better understanding on TPS, you should read The Toyota Way, by Jeffrey K. Liker. It looks at elements of TPS and helps to develop a different philosophy of manufacturing. If you’re interested in lean, try a simplified version of lean. There are people in the collision industry who have embraced lean’s philosophy and they are extremely successful at it (DCR Systems President and CEO Michael Giarrizo Jr. for one). In my simplified system, these are ideas that can make your company more efficient. If you can implement these ideas, and you see that the results are making a difference, then the next step would be to hire a consultant or join one of the paint companies that have a resident instructor on lean or Sensei (Japanese for teacher). A word of caution—don’t expect this to work overnight—or you are doomed to failure. This is going to take some time and a lot of patience, but if you preserver, the rewards will be great. Here is a second Japanese word—Kaizen.
Hey Toby---I recently attended I-CAR’s Advanced Metals class and found the class interesting, but too scientific. I have also read a couple of articles in Autobody News on the same subject, but again, it’s complicated. Could you possibly shed a different light on this subject and make it a little easier to understand?
---Not Albert Einstein from Los Angeles
HEY TOBY 6 is readbable in PDF form here
Hey Toby—Thank you for the resistance spot welding class you conducted at our Chatsworth location the other night. The class was very helpful in several ways:
The in-class technical information portion was helpful in understanding the increasing usage by auto manufacturers of advanced high strength steels and the importance of proper welding techniques needed to retain metal strength.
The actual hands-on portion of the class was powerful in that we could utilize the latest state-of-the-art equipment you provided for the class and actually test the strength of the welds we performed.
Overall, the class was beneficial for a better understanding of the importance of proper squeeze type resistance spot welding related to advanced high strength steels. Thank you for conducting the class!
Hey Toby—What is your take on those 3M disposable mix cups that fit on the spray guns?
—Dave from San Diego
Dave—The 3M mixing Paint Preparation System (AKA PPS) is plastic cup with an internal plastic liner (internal filter) that allows the painter to mix paint in it. The PPS cup is attached to the spray gun and when the refinish process has been completed, the cup is disposed of, leaving the painter to only have to clean the gun body with the PPS adapter. Quoting from the 3M web site “3M™ PPS™ is therefore a cleaner, faster system, safe from outside contamination and offering considerable time and solvent savings on gun and parts cleaning.”
I have to agree with the 3M quote, but I would like to offer another solution. You need to understand that this is a wonderful system, but it is little pricey and with things getting tougher in the body shop, I would like to suggest an alternative.
I use 600ml (equivalent to about a quart) chemical beakers to mix my paint. The 600 ml heavy duty beaker costs about $7.00. Due to the nature of the glass, they are impervious to the paint. Clean up is a breeze. Put them into a gun washer and they are clean and ready to go again. I tell my painters to mix what they need and it shouldn’t be necessary to store the paint. Yeah, I have heard the painters say that they need some for touch up and I tell them to fill a touch up bottle at the time of the mix.
Other cost saving hints: first, tell your painter to start with the light colors moving to the dark colors. Use the leftover paint as a ground coat. Secondly, set up a set of mixing cans for leftover basecoat and use them as ground coats.
A couple of other notes: You can purchase beakers all the way up to 2 liters and if your people in the paint department are careful, you will not have to purchase any more mixing containers for a long time. Lastly, I think that cost of cleaner for the beakers (and paint cups) outweighs the cost of the PPS mixing cups and their proper disposal (you still have to clean your gun with both systems).
Hey Toby—I heard that Cindy Shillito of Imperial Radiator is back in the business. Got any contact information?
—Al from Long Beach
Hi Al—You heard it correctly. I talked with Cindy the other day and she has teamed up with Complete Plus and they have put in a complete top of the line of radiators and condensers. She can be reached at 714-944-4028. See www.autobodynews.com under Product menu here.
Hey Toby—I was reading an article on STRWelding and they mentioned to use a shunt. What is it?
—Jeff from Los Angeles
Jeff—A shunt is a device which allows electrical current to pass around another point in the circuit. Remember, STR Welding is a process of passing electrical current through metal and the resistance from the metal creates large amount of concentrated heat at the weld site which, in turn, fuses the metal together (weld nugget).
If you are using adhesive with STRW (aka Weldbonding) or weld thru primer, these products will stop the flow of electricity. To overcome this problem on the first weld, a different path for the electricity is needed. This is accomplish by the use of a very high tech tool—a vice grip. The current will flow from the electrode, along the metal (bottom) and thru the pliers, back into the metal (top) and complete the circuit at the upper electrode. After the first weld has been completed, the shunt is no longer needed because the current can now flow thru the spot weld. Remember to insulate the pliers that are used for fit up because we don’t want to create an additional circuit for the electrical current.
Hey Toby—What is copper weld thru primer?
—Chuck from Chandler, AZ
Hi Chuck—Is it getting hot in the desert yet? Let’s look at weld thru primer. The original weld thru primer was zinc rich based material that was applied to underside of two mating surfaces that were to be welded together. I-CAR recommends that the weld thru primer be removed from the weld site, but not from the area surrounding the weld site. This procedure will improve the weld integrity and weldability (less spatter and porosity).
When welding using a squeeze type resistance welder, the E-coat needs to be removed from the mating flanges and a coat of weld thru primer needs to be applied. The zinc rich primer has some electrical resistance to it. A final note: Chrysler does not recommend weld thru primer when welding.
The copper in the weld thru primer provides superior conductive properties (for the electrical current) and it also minimizes the heat zone, thereby reducing distortion and welding splatter. It is gooood stuff!!!
Hey Toby—I have been reading a lot about these new steels and I keep seeing the term MPa’s. Can you explain it to me? Thanks.
—Tim from Reno, NV
Good question Tim. MPa’s stand for Mega Pascals and it represents the yield strength of steel. Up to 200 MPa’s is the yield strength of mild steel, 200 to 700 MPa’s is the yield strength of high strength steels and above 700 MPa’s are the ultra high strength and advanced steels.
Hey Toby—I took the aluminum welding qualification test with you about a year and a half ago. I am trying to remember why you push the puddle instead of pulling it when welding aluminum?
—-Joe from Rohnert Park, Ca
Joe---As Tony Ma, a tech at Don’s Autobody so eloquently stated, ‘It cleans the sh#€ out of there.’ In technical terms, it provides an arc cleaning action at the weld site. As you remember, welding aluminum produces a lot of black sooty material that can produce porosity in the weld site. By pushing the puddle, this will clean the site like a snow plow moving down a snow covered street. Also remember to increase your pressure to about 40 CFH. Don`t forget to also increase your stick out to at least one half inch when using your spool gun.
Hey Toby—About 9 months ago, we put in an A/M radiator into an ‘06 Honda Accord with 22,000 miles that sustained front end damage due to an accident. We have a DRP for an insurance company and the price for the part was dictated by the carrier with a large radiator company that they had contracted with. The radiator failed and the customer took her car to an authorized Honda dealer because she was still under factory warranty. My customer was contacted by the dealer and was told that engine blew the head gasket, but she was going to be responsible for the repairs due to the fact that the radiator was not an OEM radiator. She called me immediately and I told her that we would be responsible for the repairs. I contacted the radiator company and they stated that they would replace the radiator and the labor for its installation. I then called the insurance company supervisor and he stated that we needed to call the radiator company, but I explained that they would only cover the cost of radiator replacement and the insurance company recommended the radiator company. His reply was that I was free to purchase the radiator from anyone. I ask him if he would have paid for the difference in price and he said no. I am out $2,300. Do I have any recourse?
—Mike from Bakersfield
Hey Toby—Where can I get some repair information on a 2004 Chevrolet Corvette frame?
—Steve from Temecula, CA
Hey Toby—Can you explain what TIG welding is? I recently took an ICAR class about aluminum welding and TIG welding was mentioned as a method of welding aluminum.
—Ole from WLA.
Hey Ole—TIG stands for Tungsten Inert Gas. It is an arc welding process that uses a tungsten electrode (non-consumable) to heat up the metal and filler rod is added to produce a weld. MIG (metal inert gas) is the choice welding method for aluminum in a body shop. MIG is relatively easy to learn and it does not need high frequency current to produce an arc for welding. On the other hand, TIG welding uses high frequency electricity to produce the arc. This whole high frequency theory is as clear as mud to me, so I wrote to Miller Electric and this is what they wrote back.
“That is, the current must heat the tungsten so it becomes a better emitter of electrons; at that point, the arc can jump from the tungsten to the work piece. One traditional option for solving DC arc starting problems, and the standard method for improving AC arc starts, involves superimposing a high frequency (HF) current over the welding current. Basically, the HF current forms a path for the welding current to follow and so the arc can be established. Unfortunately, HF interferes with CNC machines, computers and other electronic equipment because its frequency is similar to a radio’s and can be “broadcasted” (one user of continuous HF reported that it affected the accounting computer... and was changing invoice figures!).
Note that inverter-based TIG machines offer an “HF start only” feature that provides a brief burst of HF at the start of the weld. Inverter-based machines do not experience as much difficulty with arc starts or arc stumbling because the machine operates so quickly. In fact, all good inverters eliminate the need for continuous HF when AC welding on aluminum and other non-ferrous metals.” What is interesting to note is that high frequency will destroy nearly all electronic equipment near the machine (I found in the literature that a safe zone is about 20 foot diameter around the machine.)
This fact along with the more difficult master and more complex, TIG has not been the welding of choice is in the body shop until now. Miller Electric has introduced a TIG welder that uses inverter technology to maintain the arc and eliminates the harmful effects of high frequency. More on this machine later, but I would like to explain some of the basics of TIG welding as it pertains to aluminum welding. Aluminum, when exposed to the atmosphere (oxygen) and moisture produces a compound called aluminum oxide. This material coats the outer skin of the aluminum to protect it (very similar to a scab forming on a cut).
Aluminum melts at 1184 degrees Fahrenheit, but the outer layer of aluminum oxide melts at over 3200 degrees Fahrenheit. Also the oxide is heavier than the aluminum and molten oxide sinks into the molten aluminum, which produces a poor weld. Knowing this fact is the reason why it so important to remove the aluminum oxide prior to welding. With TIG welding, you can use DC current positive (electrode is positively charged), DC current negative and AC. AC current is the recommended setting for most aluminum welding applications.
During the welding process the electrode and base material alternated between negative and positive 120 times a second. The switching between positive and negative creates a cleaning action which removes the oxide from the weld (TIG welding produces a very clean weld). TIG welding as I previously mentioned is a slower process than MIG welding. The slow speed of TIG welding allows impurities and gases to escape to the surface of the puddle. When gas is trapped in the puddle a pocket or void is created (AKA porosity) and again TIG eliminates porosity. Another advantage is that TIG produces a very narrow heat affect zone when compared with MIG welding. Let’s take a quick look at TIG equipment. The torch consists of a handle, tungsten electrode and a ceramic cup. The torch can be air or water cooled. The torch is connected to the power supply with cables, hoses for the shielding gas and a hose for the water if applicable. Shielding gas for aluminum is 100 percent argon for collision repair welding (100%Helium is also used for aluminum, but is not recommended for collision repair). The heat (voltage) is regulated by a foot control.
If you want more information on TIG welding, I would suggest you take I-CARs WCA 04 class. Let’s look at this new TIG welder from Miller Electric. It is called the Diversion 165. It uses Inverted Technology (no high frequency is generated) and is safe to use around vehicles. It will weld aluminum from .75mm to 4.8 mm. It is priced right—under $2000 and takes very little time to set up. I purchased this unit and when I conduct I-CAR’s WCA 04 in the shop, I bring along the unit and teach your techs how to TIG weld. This is great hands-on training for only 2 I-CAR coupons. What a deal. I want to thank all of you who took me up on teaching I-CARs Aluminum repair class with its hands-on training (180 students since I wrote the article last December).
Hey Toby—I want to purchase a new MIG welder and I looked at a 120 volt machine as well as 220 volt unit, but I can’t decide on which one. Got any suggestions?
---Jeffrey in LA
Hey Jeff—Great question. I have been using the Miller 140 auto-set machines for I-CAR qualification tests. It is a 120 volt machine and a real work horse. Each machine has over 500 hours use time and not one single problem. The only drawback is that will not handle .035 wire. Before proceding, I think it’s a good idea to think about what voltage really is, and how it will influence your decision. In electricity we have current, volts, and resistance. Current units are amps, basically the volume of electricity.
Volts are like the pressure, and resistance is the heat generated from the restriction in the current flow. If you look at water as an analogy (because you can see water), let’s say that you are going to have a party this weekend and you need to fill the wading pool for the kids and the big pool for the adults. You can fill the kiddy pool with a garden hose, but it will take forever to fill the big pool that way. What to do? Get a fire hose and it will do the trick. In welding, 0.023 wire is the garden hose and 0.035 wire is the fire hose. 0.023 wire (0.030 also) is the recommended wire for most collision applications. 0.035 is needed for repairs on frames (thickermetal). Let’s go back to the fire hose. If you were able to hook up the fire hose to a house hose bib, you would not get enough water. With 0.023 wire, you are restricted with the amount of current that it can handle (volume). You can handle more current or volume with 0.035 wire. The problem is that 120 volts has a limited amount of pressure and therefore it will not handle 0.035 wire. To increase the pressure, you will need a 220 volt machine, but they (machines) don’t handle 0.023 wire as well as 0.030 and 0.035 wire. Another consideration is price. 220 volt machines are usually one one-half to two-times the price of a 120 volt machine. It’s now in your ball park. Hold on for one second. There is a new machine on the market that will do it all. Miller Electric just introduced a new MIG welder designed for the body shop. It is the Miller 211. This machine works on both 120 volts and 220 volts. It also welds aluminum (you will need to add a spool gun). It will weld steel from .8 MM (24 gauge) to 9.5 MM or 3/8 of an inch. It has the auto-set feature and costs less then $1200. I have one of these units and it is a fantastic piece of equipment.
I sure hope this information helps and keep in touch and let me know what you have decided. The type of power supply used, either DC, a direct current or AC, an alternating current depends on the materials being fused. A DC current is usually used to weld steel, nickel, and titanium. This is the more usual procedure and also the one described earlier in TIG Welding. The AC, on the other hand, is used for welding magnesium and aluminum.
The AC method causes the electrode to alternate between positive and negative throughout the welding process. Since the electrons are now traveling in alternating directions, the tungsten electrode will not overheat. In addition, the positive ion bombardment would clean the work piece of impurities half the time (when electrode is positive and base metal negative).